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Union College cancels fall sports season because of pandemic

Union College cancels fall sports season because of pandemic

Joins fellow Liberty League member RPI on the sidelines 'out of an abundance of caution'
Union College cancels fall sports season because of pandemic
Union’s Ike Irabor with the ball against Westfield during their first home game in Schenectady on Sept. 7
Photographer: Erica Miller

Less than a week after the Liberty League announced plans to proceed with all intercollegiate fall sports, another one of its members has announced the decision to not participate this fall.

That’s Union College, which made its announcement Monday.

“We did this out of an abundance of caution. We did this for our campus community,” Union College athletic director Jim McLaughlin said Monday afternoon. “We did this for the health, safety and wellness of everyone involved.”

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The decision affects 11 men’s and women’s fall programs, including cross country, soccer, tennis, field hockey and football. Athletes were notified Monday morning.

Previously, RPI in Troy announced it planned not to play fall sports.

“We were on our own route in assessing the same things, talking about the same things,” McLaughlin said. “We ended up having similar concerns and a similar decision, as well.”

Returning Union College students will have an option for traditional on-campus learning, remote learning or an experiential opportunity where students can partake in a meaningful internship or service initiative and earn college credit. Incoming freshmen will have the option of on-campus, remote learning or both.

“We’ve asked our students to identify which option they’re going to choose by the end of this week,” McLaughlin said. “We wanted to give them a picture of exactly what the fall was going to look like, so they knew what they were choosing and what they were coming back to.”

Monday’s announcement was challenging for many athletes.

“I don’t think anyone was angry at the decision, but everyone is upset,” Kelly Harchetts, Union’s field hockey coach, said. “The amount of tears in the room — words did not need to be spoken to know what was being felt in that moment.”

The Liberty League champion Union football team will not host a competitive snap this fall after going 11-1 and advancing to the second round of last year’s national tournament.

“I saw it coming. In my heart of hearts, I just felt like it was inevitable, so to speak,” Jeff Berhman, Union College football coach, said. “Until you get the news, you’re still preparing. You’re still planning to do what you have to do. Now I’ll pivot, and we have to make some different decisions as we move forward.”

There could be an option for a spring season for several fall sports.

“We’ve already begun discussions on that. Really preliminary,” McLaughlin said. “There are going to be more and more schools available. It has its challenges, but we’ll do anything we can to be able to put that in place for our students.”

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Skidmore College, another member of the Liberty League, previously announced plans to follow through with a fall sports season in accordance with the league’s outline from July 2.

“I’m not disappointed in Union or their decision. It’s just disappointing news because it is one additional Liberty League school that will not be playing,” Gail Cummings-Danson said during a phone interview Monday afternoon. “For us, it does not change how we’re planning to move forward, today. Down the road, we may be in a similar situation — but, today, we feel we’re still on solid ground and feel confident in the direction that we’re headed in.”

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